Lunchtime Poll

Lunchtime Poll: 5/4

Spring always makes me think of poetry. I am particularly fond of ee cummings poems, and he has some great ones that evoke feelings of spring.

So for today’s LTP: What is your favorite poem? (It doesn’t have to be spring-related).

Here is one of mine, in the theme of spring:

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything
– ee cummings

By Luci Furious

There are no bad times, only good stories.

30 replies on “Lunchtime Poll: 5/4”

I’ve loved this poem since i was a young child and found an ancient copy of Palgrave’s Golden Treasury. I adore the simplicity of it.

Leisure – W. H. Davies

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Auden’s “Stop all the clocks” is a close second, for sure.

I thrust Olga Broumas’s collection of poems ‘Beginning with O’ onto people all the time. Seriously, I bought a whole bunch of them for a buck on Amazon once just so I had copies to hand out. This particular collection is very mythology and fair tale inspired. I particularly like this one:

Little Red Riding Hood

I grow old, old
without you, Mother, landscape
of my heart. No child, no daughter between my bones
has moved, and passed
out screaming, dressed in her mantle of blood

as I did
once through your pelvic scaffold, stretching it
like a wishbone, your tenderest skin
strung on its bow and tightened
against the pain. I slipped out like an arrow, but not before

the midwife
plunged to her wrist and guided
my baffled head to its first mark. High forceps
might, in that one instant, have accomplished
what you and that good woman failed
in all these years to do: cramp
me between the temples, hobble
my baby feet. Dressed in my red hood, howling, I went –

the white clad doctor and his fancy claims: microscope,
stethoscope, scalpel, all
the better to see with, to hear,
and to eat – straight from your hollowed basket
into the midwife’s skirts. I grew up

good at evading, and when you said,
“Stick to the road and forget the flowers, there’s
wolves in those bushes, mind
where you got to go, mind
you get there”. I

minded. I kept

to the road, kept
the hood secret, kept what it sheathed more
secret still. I opened
it only at night, and with other women
who might be walking the same road to their own
grandma’s house, each with their basket of gifts, her small hood
safe in the same part. I minded well. I have no daughter

to trace that road, back to your lap with my laden
basket of love. I’m growing
old, old
without you. Mother, landscape
of my heart, architect of my body, what other gesture
can I conceive

to make with it
that would reach you, alone
in your house
and waiting, across this improbable forest
peopled with wolves and our lost, flower-gathering
sisters they feed on.

My favorite is “East Coker” from Eliot’s Quartets.

Here’s part of it:
“That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter.”

“So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

My other favorite poets include Frost, Sherman Alexie, William Carlos Williams, Dickinson, and some of the British Romantics. I’ve also been doing some work lately with Hazel Hall, who’s under-known and under-read, and my absolute favorite overall total is this guy.

I have always liked The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock by T S Elliot and Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas. I also really like Michael Myers’ beat poetry in “So I Married an Ax Murderer”, though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it.
She was a thief,
you gotta believe,
she stole my heart and my cat.
Josie and those hot Pussycats…
they make me horny,
Saturday morny…
girls of cartoo-ins
will leave me in ruins…
I want to to be Betty’s Barney.
Hey Jane…
get me off this crazy thing…
called love.

I walked into an empty classroom in high school where someone had scrawled a bit of ‘Love Song’ on the chalk board. I remember being so struck by that handful of lines — and since it was pre-internet, unable to discover where the lines had come from. I painted them on my bookcase (I used to collect sayings on it) and stared at it for years.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

I know it’s cliché, but I always come back to the imagery in God’s Grandeur, by Gerard Manly Hopkins:

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Variations on the Word “Sleep” — Margaret Atwood

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

Oooh! (I know. I am kind of a poetry nerd.) But Atwood’s Spelling is also one of my favorites:

My daughter plays on the floor
with plastic letters,
red, blue & hard yellow,
learning how to spell,
how to make spells.

I wonder how many women
denied themselves daughters,
closed themselves in rooms,
drew the curtains
so they could mainline words.

A child is not a poem,
a poem is not a child.
there is no either/or.

I return to the story
of the woman caught in the war
& in labour, her thighs tied
together by the enemy
so she could not give birth.

Ancestress: the burning witch,
her mouth covered by leather
to strangle words.

A word after a word
after a word is power.

At the point where language falls away
from the hot bones, at the point
where the rock breaks open and darkness
flows out of it like blood, at
the melting point of granite
when the bones know
they are hollow & the word
splits & doubles & speaks
the truth & the body
itself becomes a mouth.

This is a metaphor.

How do you learn to spell?
Blood, sky & the sun,
your own name first,
your first naming, your first name,
your first word.

Also, even though it’s from a Children’s Book — the fantastic Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee — this is one of my very favourite poems:

Tricking — Dennis Lee

When they bring me a plate
Full of stuff that I hate
Like spinach and turnips and guck,
I sit very straight
And I look at the plate,
And I quietly say to it: Yuck!

Little kids bawl
Cause I used to be small,
And I threw it all over the tray.
But now I am three
And I’m much more like me –
I yuck till they take it away.

But sometimes my dad
Gets terriffickly mad,
And he says, “Don’t you drink from that cup!”
But he can’t say it right
Cause he’s not very bright –
So I trick him and drink it all up!

Then he gets up and roars;
He stomps on the floor
And he hollers, “I warn you, don’t eat!!”
He counts up to ten
And I trick him again:
I practically finish the meat.

Then I start on the guck
And my daddy goes “Yuck!”
And he scrunches his eyes till they hurt.
So I shovel it in
And he grins a big grin
And then we have dessert.

Josephine Jacobsen’s Lines to a Poet has always been an injunction I take seriously, even without being a poet myself. I also can’t read it without thinking of A Room With a View.

Be careful what you say to us now.
The street-lamp is smashed, the window is jagged,
There is a man dead in his blood by the base of the fountain.
If you speak
You cannot be delicate or sad or clever.
Some other hour, in a moist April,
We will consider similes for the budding larches.
You can teach our wits and our fancy then;
By a green-lit midnight in your study
We will delve in your sparkling rock.
But now at dreadful high noon
You may speak only to our heart,
Our honor and our need:
Saying such things as, “See, she is alive…”
Or “Here is water,” or “Look behind you!”

Sorry, one more…also most things by Mary Oliver, though I like “Beaver Moon – The Suicide of a Friend” very much.

When somewhere life
breaks like a pane of glass,
and from every direction casual voices are bringing you the news,
you say: I should have known.
You say: I should have been aware.
That last Friday he looked
so ill, like an old mountain-climber
lost on the white trails, listening
to the ice breaking upward, under
his worn out shoes. You say:
I heard rumors of trouble, but after all
we all have that. You say:
what could I have done? and you go
with the rest, to bury him.
That night, you turn in your bed
to watch the moon rise, and once more
see what a small coin it is
against the darkness, and how everything else
is a mystery, and you know
nothing at all except
the moonlight is beautiful–
white rivers running together
along the bare boughs of the trees-
and somewhere, for someone, life
is becoming moment by moment

Wild Geese is my favorite Oliver:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place

Side note: also love William Carlos Williams’ This Is Just To Say. My best friend from college and I frequently leave notes to one another in that format.

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

I’m another Billy Collins fan, and in addition to the selections listed below, I love Marginalia. I actually got the last lines engraved on my new iPad, after much deliberation over quotes, and I can’t decide if that makes me Super Pretentious or just interesting…

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive –
“Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!” –
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote “Don’t be a ninny”
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls “Metaphor” next to a stanza of Eliot’s.
Another notes the presence of “Irony”
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
“Absolutely,” they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
“Yes.” “Bull’s-eye.” “My man!”
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written “Man vs. Nature”
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling.

Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”

– Billy Collins

I love Emily Dickinson.

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

One of my majors in undergrad was English with a focus in writing poetry, so I let out a nerdish squeal of delight when I saw this post. :) I can’t pick an All-Time Favorite Ever, but EE Cummings is one of my favorite poets as well, and this is one of my favorites by him:

in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so(forgetting seem)

in time of roses(who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if,remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me,remember me

I used an e.e. cummings poem for my weddin’.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

I read a different cummings poem at my brother’s wedding. A few months later our aunt passed from a really aggressive bout of cancer. One of the only requests she made for her funeral was for me to read the poem in place of a eulogy:

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Anything by Billy Collins, but I’ll put in this one! If you enjoy tongue-in-cheek ones, look at “introduction to poetry” or “another reason why I don’t keep a gun in the house.” If on the other hand you enjoy making yourself cry, check out “on turning ten.”


You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine…
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

Oh, I love poetry! April was National Poetry Month in the US, and I tried to remember to post some on my tumblr.

I really like slam poetry a lot, and one of my favorite poets is Rives. This is pretty much my favorite love poem of all time. “But I’m not insisting you’re some kind of goddess. I know you’re suspicious of unspecific love poems. You’re more like a, like a sunflower growing in the courtyard of an old folks’ home. You mean things to people on a daily basis. And this petty poem won’t explain just how my favorite your face is. But it is. You’re so pretty. You’re like a… You are like a… You are like some kind of… *harmonica solo* You’re like that.”

I also really like this poem that I discovered accidentally the one day in a used book shop. I mean, I am generally the one who’s too prosy, but the Mister is certainly poetry, and I just love it. It reminds me a lot of Sonnet 130 or Let’s Hear it for the Boy (which I still insist is just a modern version of Sonnet 130).

She’s Too Prosy For Me
by: James Kavanaugh

I met a girl more beautiful than you,
Who’s probably brighter – even more elegant,
But she’s too prosy for me, and
Moves in pages and paragraphs,
Speaks in sentences,
Lives in chapters
With the commas all in place,
Predictable and shorn of wonder.
Line flows coherently from line
With logic and reason,
With judgement and taste,
With index and footnotes,
With rules and rituals,
The mystery’s edited out.

You are poetry to me
Without rhyme or reason,
Without systems or schedules,
Without requirements and obligations,
Or disappointments and expectations,
God knows – without a watch!
Your sudden lines surprise me,
Shy and startling,
Bold and unafraid
Of silence
Or challenge – or change,
Or repetition – or repetition!

You are poetry to me
Like chili on a cold night with lots of crackers,
Or eating Hershey bars in duckblinds,
Or wandering through a market in Mexico.
I met a girl more beautiful than you,
But she could never look like someone I know
Coming out of the rain
In a canvas coat,
A droopy hat,
And in sneakers – of all things!

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